George Schaefer, known by his friends as Geo, launched the award-winning Spirit magazine along with his colleague, Gloria Hurwitz, then vice president of advancement. Spirit magazine is the signature communication UCH uses to engage its growing number of stakeholders.
Geo helped coin the organization’s new mission, vision and core values statements. He played a key role in securing former Good Morning America anchor Joan Lunden for the new Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging’s inaugural Symposium and is remembered as a larger-than-life personality known for his famous line: “Boom!”
“I had fun. I was not afraid to be unorthodox. I was just me being me,” Geo said.
Geo’s career at UCH ended abruptly after medical crises in 2016 resulted in the amputation of his left leg due to his 20-year battle with diabetes. In 2017, his condition forced him to take medical retirement to focus on his health.
Geo was among the 200 people who attended the Ruth Parker Center Symposium in October 2016. Joan Lunden jumped from the stage after her speech and hugged him so he wouldn’t have to get up from his wheelchair.
His co-workers, Beth Long-Higgins, executive director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, and Gloria, who now is vice president of advancement and communications, miss working with Geo.
Beth described Geo as creative and extremely dedicated to his role at UCH.
Beth admired Geo’s work to rebrand and change the culture at UCH after he was hired and on the organization’s Community video.
“The video captured, in the best sense and more than we ever had hoped, the vision, mission and values of our organization. It affirmed that everyone had embraced those traits,” Beth said.
Beth understood Geo’s creative side in ways some others did not and added his impact will be felt for years to come.
“He would always say, ‘Think bigger than you are.’ It was his way of moving us out of thinking too small. He wanted us to imagine ourselves to be the influencers in people’s lives and realize our role within the larger culture,” Beth said.
Beth said she wished Geo still worked at UCH. “I miss working with him, but I also recognize there are times when, for personal reasons, we have to do what’s best for us,” Beth said.
Gloria remembers Geo’s signature line of “Boom!” when he had a great idea, and how he offered a $100 bill to staff at leadership summits if they could answer trivia questions most people couldn’t answer.
“Geo is a walking encyclopedia of random facts — he knows details about many things most people don’t think about,” Gloria said.
Another fond memory was when
he entered a leadership summit pretending to play the Dire Straits riff of I Want My MTV while someone played guitar behind him as part of a marketing presentation to staff.
“That’s great and a little sad. I always felt I had enough leeway, and the CEO had enough confidence in me, to do that. Every one of us is granted a dash and what you make of that dash is what matters,” Geo said.
“In the end, oh my God, it was fun,” Geo said.